Monday, May 31, 2010

Apricots Deserve Cake!

My little family and I went a pickin' last weekend! And as you can see, it was a lovely (if windy) day for it.

I had been shocked to find fruit that morning at the farmers' market. I have been so out-of-sorts with the weather, it could be July or January and I wouldn't know the difference. I am used to seeing a lot of rhubarb and English peas before anything else. I haven't. I am used to winter-cold, spring-cool, and summer-warm, but I've been hot since Christmas. You can imagine my excitement then, when I saw a few stands with strawberries, cherries, loquats, and beautiful, blushing apricots.

I was ready for the cherries and strawberries. I had planned for the cherries, writing down on the calendar weeks ago the opening dates for a few pick-your-own farms around here, and the strawberry stands have been open for a month now. But the apricots-apricots-apricots! Yup, a little excited.

I refrained from getting the cherries at the market (because we planned to pick some that afternoon), but still came home with a beautiful array of loveliness: a few of the apricots, some spring onions, white radishes, little darling carrots, fresh dill, and the loquats.

When I had recovered my beloved, my son, and myself all went to a cherry-picking orchard, only to find that the cherries were well picked-over already or not ripe yet. But we were redeemed. Apricots again. They were ripe.

Apricots do something to my sensitive soul that other fruits don't do. They are the soul-catchers of the fruit world. They are the spiritual equivalent of a monk, though I am not sure why. They are small and sweet, juicy but not messy, plump but not round. They open easily down one side and that open side guides the rest of my prying. They are just pretty, I mean, they have freckles for goodness' sake! They deserve cake.

In fact, they deserve to become cake not in their next life, but in this one. I honor their dedication to the world of beauty. Amen.

I actually tried to eat this for breakfast. Tasty idea, but I do believe it is an afternoon tea kind of treat or a true dessert, rather than a coffee cake. I restrained myself again and followed the recipe completely and it is perfect, but I think the apricots can handle a heartier crumb. I would like to play with flours in this one--spelt or oat or a mixture of them. Ms. Beranbaum is right though, the sourcream is gorgeous. Brilliant really. I licked the beaters. I never lick the beaters.

Apricot Upside-Down Cake (from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible)

When spreading the batter onto the fruit, remember you don't have to 'mush' it into the fruit cracks. The baking process does a more even job of this as the apricots have a chance to cling to the bottom and not get pushed out of place by your prodding. I know, I tried!

about 10 unblemished apricots
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
pecan halves (optional)

3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
11/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until combined and remove from heat.

Halve the apricots down the side seam. Make an outer ring of apricots that hugs the outer rim, ovals pointing towards the center, then an inner ring, and then one large half in the center. (Eat any leftover half as a reward for this art!) If desired, evenly tuck pecan halves in any spaces between the fruit.

In a bowl, whisk together yolks, about half of the sour cream, and the vanilla.

In another, larger mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add butter and remaining sour cream and mix on medium speed and beat for a minute or two.

Add egg mixture slowly to batter in 3 batches, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides, and miz again until smooth and even. Scrape and smooth the batter in the pan over the fruit. Bake until deeply browned, about 40-50 minutes. A bamboo tester inserted in the center should come out clean, and the cake should spring back when pressed lightly in center. Run a knife or spatula around the sides and invert at once onto a serving plate, but leave the skillet in place for a couple minutes before lifting. If any fruit has stuck to the skillet, just scrape it off and set it back on the cake where it was missing.

Let cool a little at least, as the fruit is very, very hot. I recommend it on the warmer side of room temperature. Enjoy!


  1. We always called those (loquats) kumquats - we have a friend who grows them and would bring them to church to share and we would eat plenty and take more home. Delicious! - and unique to California and where ever else they might be grown since they brown quickly and don't ship well.

  2. Oh I agree on so many counts here. Apricots - something magical - their taste, juice, blushing skin plus freckles. Cake for breakfast - always have left over desert (after having people over) the next morning. Helps the washing up go smoother. Lovely post.